|We need to get inventive with the way we bridge the gap|
I am on a writing adventure whilst at home: suddenly there is so much I want to write about. Although my mother nearly put me off writing about this topic when she said, ‘Recently, some of your blogs read like they were written by an angry lesbian’, which both amused me but also got me thinking that maybe my writing style (when addressing issues that upset me) reads more like anger than the sarcastic and facetious style that I usually aim for. Then again, maybe it is my gender that makes the writing seem ‘angry’ instead of a tongue-in-cheek exposition into certain issues. Her comment got me thinking about various issues, but gender inequality fascinates me, and I am still frequently shocked by other females that will either defend or seem completely oblivious to the issue. So bear with me while I hop back on my soapbox and go over:
Let’s not beat around the bush on this one. Historically, women have been deemed the inferior gender, mainly owing to the greater physical strength that men generally have over women. This is a biological fact we cannot overcome, and this fact of physical supremacy is the same in most other species (except in some species of insect, where the female is actually larger and stronger, and totes kicks some male arse physically).
As humans have evolved and developed a civilised, intellectually based society, women have become more liberated over the years in terms of participation in sport, etc. – it is no longer frowned upon for women to compete in formerly male-only physical disciplines, such as weight-lifting – which has helped us to catch up a bit (or at least narrow the gap) when it comes to physical strength.
I’ve been involved in some debates (I will not take my usual childish approach to this and talk about being involved in ‘mass debates’ as a totally juvenile play on words… Oh, whoops!) with friends and colleagues who’ve said they don’t believe an inequality still exists. I’ve even reeled off the data to them and yet they persist in denying it. I think the most startling fact I’ve come across is that if we continue at our current rate of change towards a more equal society, it will take 250 years before we have a 50/50 split of male/female CEOs in the Fortune 500 list (70 years in the UK - A report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission of the UK’s largest 100 companies in 2008, and in Australia the stats are less clear, but from a range of data most indicate by the end of the century). The facts are that the rate of improvement levelled off in the mid 1990s, and hasn’t moved much since. Well, isn’t this depressing?!
The other mind-boggling yet inescapable fact is that females are paid 20% less than their male counterparts in non-managerial jobs; and economists can account for only a portion of this being related to productivity-related characteristics, so the residual number is attributed to gender discrimination.
The most frustrating thing for me is that since I started working some 20 *cough* years ago, we have been talking about this, and we still appear to be no further forward.
I can personally relate to these issues, so I have selfishly chosen to write about them, but ‘the why’ is another thing we have been talking about for years. Females tend to have to prove they have the skills for a job over and over again.
There’s also the challenge of walking the tightrope of being deemed either ‘too feminine’, and not being taken seriously enough, or ‘too masculine’, and labelled intimidating, bossy or challenging. Getting the balance right in order to master walking that tightrope is near on impossible.
Then there’s the maternal wall, which affects all women regardless of their decision to have children or not, because they can still be ruled out of progressing simply by being of a ‘child-rearing age’. These factors seem to combine to create a tug-of-war, and there are even some women that create conflict with – and even actively hold back – other women from progressing. It’s quite frankly a nightmare scenario to find any balance!
Isn’t it time we progressed?
In my eyes, we have been discussing the issue for over 20 years; I keep seeing the same old information being recycled with very little change in the stats. This is where the ‘it will take 250 years to get equality’ fact comes from, and it’s shocking! This means that not even our daughters or our granddaughters or even our great granddaughters will be on level ground with their male counterparts.
Surely it’s time for action?! We’ve had enough social commentary and enough statistical analysis to provide us with the evidence that gender inequality still strongly exists, and thus remains a problem. In my estimation, the easiest solution would be for all organisations to run their payroll stats and address the balance financially. If they think that’s too much of a sting, it goes to show what a sad state of affairs we are in, and reflective of how unjust businesses as a whole have let things become.
It would also pay to get some specific company analysis on what the split of male/female ratios are and then establish the reasons behind this. I appreciate that there can be some factors other than gender at play, but on the whole there will also be some genuine gender bias and I think the government should be setting some harsh targets around this. Maybe CEOs should have their pay deducted to address the balance? ‘We’ve done some analysis, and in your organisation females are paid 20% less than their male counterparts; therefore, we shall deduct 20% from your own salary this year.’ (Assuming the CEO isn’t one of the few female CEOs out there, whose pay may well be less than their male equivalents.) This would surely make them sit up, pay attention and get to work correcting the discrepancy in pay?! I believe it is inexcusable to be talking about this subject for so long and for us to still be dancing around the action that is needed.
What will it take for a company – or indeed society – to take notice and make the necessary changes? We all have a part to play, and we all have a voice, so why not use it? I can’t help but imagine a world where women actually start to help and support each other and fight together for gender equality – now, what a world that would be… Angry lesbian rant over.
Written by Corina Hawkins, soon to be author, and edited by Sophie McClelland.